More candidates quit Sudan poll

Sudan’s main opposition parties have withdrawn from the country’s upcoming presidential polls, effectively handing a hollow victory to Omar al Bashir, the sitting president.

A spokesman for the Umma party leader said that “most” of Sudan’s opposition groups had decided to withdraw their candidates.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, a former prime minister and head of the Umma Party,  Mubarak al-Fadil, a senior Umma member, Ibrahim  Nugud, chief of communist party, and Hatem al-Sir of the Democratic Unionist Party have all withdrawn, al-Fadil said.

Their decision came after opposition members met in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman to decide whether they would boycott the April 11-13 election.

Hours earlier a senior US envoy arrived in Khartoum to begin talks with rival political factions in an effort to save the election process.

But opposition parties chose to follow the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, who announced on Wednesday that its presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, would boycott the April 11-13 poll.

The SPLM cited concerns over electoral irregularities and the continuing conflict in the country’s western Darfur region as reasons for Arman’s withdrawal.

Analysts said Arman’s boycott had effectively handed a first-round victory to Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president.

The news that further parties have withdrawn will further undermine the legitimacy of any victory al-Bashir might claim in the first multiparty elections for 24 years.

“This is a big blow to the elections,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow in Khartoum. “It will discredit the whole process.”

Calls for postponement

The withdrawal comes after al-Bashir dismissed calls from opposition parties for the election to be postponed.

They argued that the country was not ready for the polls and said many candidates have not been given the fair opportunities to carry out significant electoral campaigns in the volatile country.

Opposition groups had insisted that going ahead with the election would be a “disaster” for Sudan.

In video

Speaking on Wednesday, Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), the biggest opposition group in Darfur, told Al Jazeera that many eligable voters are being excluded from taking part in the poll.

“These elections are based mainly on false senses, especially in Darfur. Masses of populations … will be excluded from the elections,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Especially the nomads – they can not participate in these elections. So we are calling for the delaying of this and we want to accelerate the peace process first.”

‘Chaos and war’

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Ibrahim said it would be a catastrophe if al-Bashir won the election. “He will continue the violence, especially in the west part of Sudan,” he said.

“I don’t think the other parties will accept this, there will be chaos and war if he [al-Bashir] wins.”

But the Al Bashir’s NCP deny that there is a popular appetite for delaying the polls and say they will push ahead with the process.

Dr Omar Rahman, a senior NCP member, told Al Jazeera that people in Sudan are keen for the election to go ahead.

“Whether they (the SPLM) participate or not, the people have decided that elections are something they have looked forward to for years,” he said on Thursday, before news of the mass withdrawal broke. “We are looking forward to peaceful and transparant elections.”

The NCP has ruled Sudan in a coalition with the SPLM since a peace deal ended a 22-year civil war between North and South Sudan in 2005, and many see sucessful elections as a key part of the peace process.

“Holding elections in the Sudan is a national obligation that should be fulfilled,” Al Bashir said on Monday. “They [the opposition] are calling for cancelling the elections and holding the referendum. This is unacceptable nonsense.”

The north-south war claimed an estimated two million lives and destabilised much of East Africa.

[original]

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